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Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee KG OM CH PC FRS was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951 and was voted the greatest Prime Minister of all time in a 2004 poll of British politics professors. He was Deputy Prime Minister under Winston Churchill in the wartime coalition government and then won a landslide election victory in 1945. He was the first Labour Prime Minister to serve a full Parliamentary term and the first to have a majority in Parliament.
He put in place the Keynesian economic structure that remained the cornerstone of UK policy until the election of Margaret Thatcher ushered in a new era of neoliberalism. This, combined with huge demand from the working classes, lead to the establishment of the British welfare state, the nationalisation of many industries and the creation of the National Health Service. He also dealt with the decolonisation of much of the British Empire, especially India and the development of British nuclear weapons.
Attlee, therefore, has a decent shoot at second place in the rankings of Prime Ministers. One poll even ranked him first. When his record is criticised, it is generally for being too naive towards the Soviet Union (at one point giving them plans for new British jet engine breakthroughs, which they proceeded to use against British forces in The Korean War) and for difficult relations with the United States. The latter, however, is not entirely his fault: the trans-Atlantic relationship was strained from the fact that Britain went from a right-wing to a left-wing leader at about the same time as America went the other way, and right in the middle of the peace negotiations at the end of World War Two.
Clement Attlee in fiction
- In The Goon Show episode The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-Upon-Sea it is heavily implied that Winston Churchill threw a batter pudding at Clement Attlee.
- In the final episode of Goodnight Sweetheart, the main character saves Attlee's life.
- In World War Z, one character near the end refers to Attlee as a "third-rate mediocrity" whose only claim to fame was unseating Churchill and having World War II end on his watch. His judgment is quiteinaccurate, but then again, it is an American saying this—in America, Churchill is exalted as a war hero, while the only people who have heard of Attlee are students of British history and people who watch PBS.